Cidade Velha excavations


The majority of finds were glazed white tiles with blue and yellow patterns (pattern and framing tiles). All were of well-known types found commonly in Portuguese churches and dating to 1630-1700; a type series has been established for the types found on site (see Appendix). The production quality was generally poor compared to what one would see in Portuguese churches at the time. Only three tile fragments were of earlier types. In addition there were a small number of sherds (specialist report forthcoming). This included Portuguese 16th century faience, green glazed coarseware and redware sherds; all types found previously in Cidade Velha. There were also a few examples of 18th-19th century pearl-ware and transfer pottery. In addition, there was one piece of West African pottery and four pieces of Cape Verdean African pottery. No wood or bone objects, such as beads, were found, but one very small glass bead was recovered. Apart from a few pieces of marbles no further fragments of moulded stones were found (some fragment were found in the 2007 season). A small amount of metal objects were recovered, including parts of a late 16–17th century iron pot and a small number of coins, their dates ranging from the early 17th century to 1975. The metal objects were roughly identified in the field, with necessary refinement of dates and types to result from their conservation (ongoing, done by Jose Lima).

The most informative finds are the glazed tiles. As expected from the trial excavations, they were present at very high numbers. Almost all were of a common Portuguese type dating to 1630–1700 and produced in Lisbon. Only three earlier tiles, dating to the late 16th century, were found. Their different dates suggest that: 1) there was at least one major phase of recladding the church during the late 17th century, and 2) that the earlier phase might have had more modest surface cover as so much fewer tiles (including small fragments) were found.

The patterns represented amongst the tiles are similar to the ones found during trial excavation in 2006 and 2007. The tile pattern is also almost identical to that found in the nearby Rosary Church. It is, therefore, interesting to note that this pattern is different from the motives found on the glazed tiles in the church of Alcatrazes. Despite this sense of local similarity in terms of tiles available at the time, the compositions of the in situ tiles at both side of the altar in the side-chapel) are not, as one might have expected, identical. Only the framing-tiles are repeated on both sides. This could suggest that either sufficient amount of the different patterned tiles were not available, or that symmetry was not emphasised (which would be different from compositional schemes used in Portugal). The tile-traces in the mortar also suggest that the tiling was not of the highest quality, and the production quality of the tiles is also poor.

The rest of the assemblage is limited and of well-known types. The range is similar to finds recovered in other parts of Cidade Velha, including the presence of Portuguese faience, Portuguese earthenware and red-ware and a few West African and Cape Verden-African sherds. It is worth noting, but not surprising, that most sherds were found outside the church, where they may have been deposited through soil wash during the raining season. It is, however, also worth pointing out that they are mainly of a limited date range from the mid 16–late 17th century, suggesting may be that there was limited activities in the area above the site after that period or that changes in field terracing meant that finds were not moved to this location after the late 18th century.

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